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AUSTIN — Despite a recommendation to sell 23 water and wastewater utilities to a Canadian firm and four to individual buyers, the Lower Colorado River Authority board postponed a decision until next month.

Several of the systems are located in the Highland Lakes.

LCRA officials said the systems cost $3 million each year to run and are cost-prohibitive for the agency, which wants to focus on supplying hydroelectric power and managing the river basin.

The LCRA board could revisit the issue Sept. 21.

Chairman Timothy Timmerman told staff to continue working with the consultant firm BMO Capital Markets to review the sales of the facilities and contact individual customer bidders.

The LCRA staff recommended the water authority sell 23 of the systems to the Canadian firm Corix.

Not everyone seemed pleased by the idea.

“Does it make sense to sell Texas water systems to a Canadian company?” asked Westlake Hills Mayor Dave Clauch.

He noted both the consulting firm and the recommended purchaser are Canadian companies.

According to officials, Corix services more than 220 water and wastewater systems with 650,000 customers.

The company has an Austin office with 70 employees.

In addition, some area leaders weren’t sold on selling the systems to a private company. They urged the LCRA board to consider offering the systems to local entities and keeping the facilities in public hands as much as possible.

In February, the LCRA announced it was selling the 27 systems and two raw water pumping stations. The quasi-government agency had bought the most of the systems over the years as the previous owners struggled to keep them working and in repair. LCRA would often upgrade the facilities after purchasing them.

But last year, LCRA leadership decided that running water and wastewater systems wasn’t a good use of its resources and decided to sell them.

Initially, the river authority said it wanted to sell all the systems to one or two buyers instead of breaking them out individually.

That announcement drew the ire of many local leaders including Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, who criticized allowing the systems to end up in private hands.

Several Central Texas officials and concerned citizens formed the Coalition of Central Texas Utilities Development Corp. in response to the pending sale.

Meanwhile, LCRA approached 87 parties interested in the systems with 38 responding.

After an 11-week review period, the LCRA accepted 16 preliminary bids for individual or group systems. The staff working with BMO moved 11 of the bidders on to the second round, which consisted of another 10 weeks of research and review.

On Aug. 8, the LCRA accepted the final bids.

Along with Corix, the staff recommended the board approve the sale of four individual systems individually including the Whitewater Springs Water System located east of Marble Falls.

As part of the decision to put the sale off another month, the LCRA board also directed its staff to work more with the coalition on the bids.

daniel@thepicayune.com